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Is Nature's Bakery Bad For You?

Also Known As: Nature's Bakery fig bars, Nature's Bakery snacks



Short answer

Nature's Bakery products provide a moderate nutritional option with whole grains and natural sweeteners. However, they should be consumed in moderation due to added sugars and certain processed ingredients. Individuals with gluten and other allergies should read labels carefully. Overall, these snacks could fit into a balanced diet when consumed mindfully alongside a varied and nutritious dietary pattern.



Long answer

Ingredients Analysis of Nature's Bakery Products

When investigating the nutritional landscape of Nature's Bakery products, a good starting point is to delve into the specific components that make up their range of foods. Nature's Bakery is known for its selection of snack bars and fig bars, which are often promoted as healthier options compared to traditional snacks. Here, we'll explore the common ingredients found in Nature's Bakery products and dissect their potential health impacts.

Whole Wheat Flour: The base for many of Nature's Bakery's offerings is whole wheat flour, which is a step above refined flour in terms of nutritional value. Whole grains are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. However, individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease should avoid products made with whole wheat flour.

Fig Paste: This is the core ingredient in their flagship fig bars and provides natural sweetness. Figs are a source of essential nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and dietary fiber. The fiber aids in digestion, but in excessive amounts, it could lead to gastrointestinal discomfort.

Brown Rice Syrup: Used as a sweetener, brown rice syrup has a lower glycemic index than table sugar. However, some studies suggest that brown rice syrup can contain levels of arsenic above what is considered safe, as found in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal. Thus, frequent consumption could pose a risk.

Cane Sugar: While cane sugar is a more natural form of sugar, it still contributes to the overall sugar content and should be consumed in moderation. Excessive sugar intake is linked to a myriad of health issues, including obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Canola Oil: Often used as a fat source in baking, canola oil is low in saturated fat and contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Yet, it is also rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which in excessive amounts can lead to inflammation and other health problems. The quality and processing of canola oil can also vary, potentially affecting its health benefits.

Natural Flavors: The term "natural flavors" can be misleading, as it encompasses a broad range of substances derived from natural sources. While generally considered safe, the exact components are not detailed, which might be a concern for individuals with allergies or sensitivities.

Sea Salt: Present in moderation, sea salt contains trace minerals not found in regular table salt. It’s still a source of sodium, which in high quantities can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Consumption should be kept in check, especially for individuals with hypertension.

In conclusion, Nature's Bakery products use a mixture of whole-food ingredients and added sweeteners and flavors. For the health-conscious consumer, understanding the balance and quantity of these ingredients is key. Moderation is critical, and those with specific dietary restrictions should review product labels carefully.

Sugar Content and Types of Sweeteners Used

When considering the health implications of any processed food, understanding the sweeteners involved is crucial. Manufacturers often use various sugars and sweeteners to appeal to our innate liking for sweetness, yet their impact on health can vary widely.

The sugar content in Nature's Bakery products can differ depending on the specific item. For instance, their popular Fig Bars contain 10 grams of sugars per serving. It's important to acknowledge that this amount represents about 20% of the American Heart Association's recommended daily limit of 50 grams of added sugars for most women and 25 grams for children. Men are advised to limit added sugars to no more than 37.5 grams per day. Therefore, while one serving may fit within these guidelines, consuming multiple servings can quickly exceed them, which can lead to adverse health effects, such as weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, and tooth decay.

Indeed, the types of sweeteners used are as significant as their quantity. Nature's Bakery tends to use more natural sweetening agents like cane sugar, brown rice syrup, and honey in their baked goods. While these sweeteners may be less processed than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), it's important to note that from a nutritional standpoint, the body processes cane sugar and HFCS very similarly, both potentially leading to spikes in blood sugar levels.

Furthermore, while some may perceive 'natural' sweeteners like honey to be healthier, they are still forms of sugar and contribute to total sugar intake. It's also worth mentioning that, unlike artificial sweeteners, these natural sugars do provide some energy in the form of calories. However, they offer very little in the way of essential nutrients.

Research studies, such as those published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association," have linked excessive sugar consumption to a multitude of health risks including increased inflammation, diabetes, and obesity. The particular impact of added natural sweeteners is still under investigation, but current evidence suggests that moderation is key, no matter the source.

It's also worth noting the potential for sugar alcohols in some products, which may cause digestive discomfort in some individuals. While Nature's Bakery products largely steer clear of these, understanding all ingredients on a label remains important for those with sensitivities.

In conclusion, while Nature's Bakery opts for more natural sweeteners, consumers should remain conscious of their total daily sugar intake. No matter the source, consistently high sugar consumption is associated with various health risks, and moderation should be exercised.

The Role of Whole Grains in Nature's Bakery Items

Whole grains play a pivotal role in the nutritional profile of Nature's Bakery products. Renowned for their health benefits, whole grains are an integral component of a balanced diet. Nature's Bakery incorporates these nutrient-rich grains into its snack offerings to provide a more wholesome snacking option compared to many highly-processed alternatives.

Whole grains consist of three key parts: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Unlike refined grains, which have been stripped of the bran and germ, whole grains include all three, preserving valuable vitamins, minerals, fibers, and antioxidants that promote health. A diet rich in whole grains has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. The fiber content alone contributes to better digestive health, helps maintain a healthy weight, and can lower cholesterol levels.

For instance, the inclusion of whole grains in a product like Nature's Bakery Fig Bar affects its dietary fiber content positively. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines, it's recommended that adults consume at least 48 grams of whole grains daily. Snacks like these bars can contribute to this goal, offering a convenient way to boost whole grain intake.

  • Supports Cardiovascular Health: Diets rich in whole grains such as oats or whole wheat, which are often used in Nature's Bakery items, have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
  • Aids in Weight Management: The fiber from whole grains contributes to a feeling of fullness, potentially helping with weight control by reducing the likelihood of overeating.
  • Glycemic Response: The lower glycemic index (GI) of whole grains compared to refined grains leads to a slower and more gradual rise in blood sugar levels, aiding in the management of diabetes.
  • Digestive Benefits: Dietary fiber from whole grains helps to maintain digestive health and can prevent constipation.

Research underscores the significance of whole grain consumption. The American Heart Association, in a 2016 scientific statement published in the journal Circulation, reported a link between whole grain intake and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Moreover, a study in the Journal of Nutrition (2016) supported the assertion that higher dietary fiber intake, particularly from whole grains, is associated with lower body weight and other positive health outcomes.

While whole grains are a key feature in Nature's Bakery products, it's important to consider the overall macronutrient and caloric content in the context of one's total diet. Consuming whole grain snacks should be part of a varied and balanced diet that includes multiple sources of fiber, protein, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.

For consumers interested in Nature's Bakery items specifically for their whole grain content, it's advisable to check product labels for the "Whole Grain" stamp from the Whole Grains Council. This stamp assures that the product contains a substantial amount of whole grains per serving. Consumers can also evaluate the ingredient list for whole grain components listed towards the beginning, indicating a higher proportion in the product.

Overall, the role of whole grains in Nature's Bakery products is a highlight in the brand's commitment to better-for-you snacks. However, while beneficial, whole grains are but one piece of the puzzle when it comes to a holistic approach to diet and health.

Additives and Preservatives in Packaged Snacks

When it comes to packaged snacks, the presence and types of additives and preservatives can significantly impact their health profile. While these substances can extend shelf life and improve flavor, texture, and appearance, some may have downsides. Let's delve into these components, commonly found in packaged snacks like those from Nature's Bakery, and understand their potential effects on your health.

Common Additives and Preservatives

  • Emulsifiers: such as soy lecithin, are often used to keep ingredients from separating. While generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, some studies suggest that emulsifiers could disrupt gut bacteria balance, possibly leading to inflammation or gastrointestinal issues.
  • Natural Flavors: Despite the harmless presentation, "natural flavors" can encompass a wide range of substances derived from natural sources. They are often added to make the product more palatable, but the specifics of these substances are not disclosed, which can be concerning for those with allergies or sensitivities.
  • Sweeteners: Many snacks contain added sweeteners, both natural and artificial. Even natural sweeteners, like cane sugar or fruit concentrates, can contribute to an excessive intake of sugar when consumed in large quantities, potentially leading to negative health effects such as weight gain, increased risk of chronic diseases, and dental problems.
  • Preservatives: To prevent spoilage and mold growth, preservatives like sorbic acid may be used. While these preservatives are approved and deemed safe by regulatory agencies, there is ongoing research into their long-term effects on health, including potential impacts on the immune system and metabolism.

Assessing the Risks

The consumption of additives and preservatives has been a topic of debate among health professionals and consumers alike. According to a review published in the Frontiers in Public Health, there is concern regarding the cumulative and synergistic effects of these substances, especially since many processed foods contain a cocktail of additives (source). While most additives are tested individually for safety, their interactions and combined effects are not as well understood.

People with specific health concerns, such as those with ADHD, may need to be cautious about certain additives. For instance, some colorings and preservatives have been linked to increased hyperactivity in children susceptible to these effects. This topic was explored in a study published in The Lancet, which called for more research and consideration of dietary factors in managing such conditions (source).

For individuals concerned about additives and preservatives, it's essential to read the labels carefully. Look for products with minimal ingredients, and be aware of names that may disguise less desirable ingredients, like "natural flavors." Additionally, seeking brands committed to transparency and simplicity in their ingredients can also help limit the intake of unnecessary additives and preservatives.

Ultimately, while the ingredients found in Nature's Bakery products and similar snack options are generally safe for most people, staying informed about what's in your food and its potential impacts is crucial for maintaining good health. Moderation and a balanced approach to consuming these products are recommmended, along with a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods.

Allergens and Cross-Contamination Risks

When considering whether Nature's Bakery products are suitable for everyone, it's important to discuss potential allergens and the risk of cross-contamination. Allergens are substances that can cause allergic reactions, which for some individuals can be life-threatening. Safety in terms of allergens not only pertains to the ingredients directly used but also to the practices in place to prevent cross-contamination. This is particularly important for individuals with severe food allergies or sensitivities.

Identified Allergens in Nature's Bakery Products:

  • Wheat: Many Nature's Bakery products contain wheat, which means they are not suitable for individuals with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
  • Soy: Some products may contain soy, another common allergen that can cause reactions in sensitive individuals.
  • Dairy: Although Nature's Bakery is known for producing dairy-free snacks, cross-contamination can be a concern if they are manufactured in a facility that processes dairy products.

In terms of cross-contamination, even trace amounts of an allergen can prompt allergic reactions. Facilities that process a wide range of products need strict protocols to minimize this risk. According to the Nature's Bakery website, they produce their snacks in a facility that is mindful of allergen concerns, but it is always advisable for consumers to check product packaging for any allergen notices.

Factory Practices to Prevent Cross-Contamination:

  • Segregation of certain ingredients in a facility to reduce exposure.
  • Thorough cleaning protocols between production runs.
  • Dedicated production days or equipment for allergen-free products.
  • Regular allergen testing of equipment and products to ensure safety.
  • Clear labeling on packaging that reflects any potential cross-contamination risk.

For those with allergies, it’s important to read labels and reach out to the manufacturer if there is any doubt about the safety of a product. An open dialogue with food producers can provide peace of mind and additional information regarding their product safety measures.

A study published in the Food Control journal has emphasized the importance of rigorous cleaning practices and the effectiveness of thorough allergen management in food production facilities. While Nature's Bakery seems to take allergen risks seriously, the individual threshold for an allergic reaction can be highly personal and variable.

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on both producers and consumers. Producers must be transparent and diligent in their manufacturing processes, while consumers need to stay informed and vigilant about what they eat, especially when dealing with food allergies or sensitivities.

Comparing Nutritional Value to Other Snack Bars

When evaluating snack bars, it’s essential to delve into their nutritional profiles, examining the balance of macronutrients, the quality of ingredients, and the presence of added sugars and fibers. Nutrition labels and ingredient lists serve as a transparent window into how snack bars stack up against one another.

Nature's Bakery bars prided themselves on their whole-food, plant-based ingredients such as whole wheat and real fruit. Here, we’ll critically analyze how Nature's Bakery compares to other popular snack bars in terms of nutritional value.

Macronutrient Comparison:

  • Caloric Content: Nature's Bakery bars typically contain between 160-200 calories, which is comparable to other whole grain-based snack bars like KIND bars or Kashi bars.
  • Proteins: They offer around 2-3 grams of protein per serving, which is on the lower end when compared to protein-focused bars like Quest or RXBAR that may provide 10-20 grams per serving.
  • Fats: Fats in Nature's Bakery bars are primarily sourced from plant-based ingredients, resulting in a moderate fat content that's similar to that of other fruit and nut bars.
  • Carbohydrates: They are prevalent in Nature's Bakery bars, accounting for the majority of the calorie content. The bars also contain fiber, beneficial for digestive health, although the fiber content (3-4g per serving) is lower than some fiber-rich bars such as Fiber One.

Ingredient Quality:

  • Whole Grains: Nature's Bakery bars use whole wheat as a primary ingredient, unlike some competitors that use refined grains or a mix of whole and refined grains.
  • Real Fruit: The bars boast the use of real fruit, which is a more healthful option compared to fruit flavors or concentrates found in some other snack bars.
  • Free of Artificial Additives: They are usually free from high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors or flavors, which is an advantage over some snack bars that may use these to enhance taste and appearance.

Added Sugars and Sweeteners:

  • Nature's Bakery bars do contain added sugars, with the amount typically ranging from 10-15 grams per serving. This is a crucial aspect to consider, particularly when compared to snack bars that are designed for low sugar diets.
  • It's worth noting that sugar content in snack bars can vary, with some brands adopting alternative sweeteners such as stevia or sugar alcohols to reduce sugar levels without compromising taste.

In the broader landscape of snack bars, Nature's Bakery presents itself as a competitor that balances taste and healthfulness. Its use of whole grains, real fruit, and the absence of artificial additives position it quite favorably in the ever-competitive snack bar market. However, when specifically targeting the macronutrient composition or sugar content, one may find that other bars might better serve their dietary needs or restrictions. As always, consumers should read labels carefully and consider their dietary goals when selecting the snack bar that’s right for them.

For a clearer comparison, here is a tabulated comparison of the nutritional value of Nature's Bakery versus two other snack bars:

Brand Calories Protein (g) Fat (g) Carbs (g) Fiber (g) Sugars (g)
Nature's Bakery 180 2 5 36 3 13
Kind Bar 200 3 16 21 5 14
RXBAR 210 12 9 24 5 15

Understanding these comparisons can inform your choice, aligning it with your health goals, whether that's managing weight, controlling sugar intake, or seeking more protein in your snacks.

How Nature's Bakery Fits Into a Balanced Diet

Navigating the world of snacks, especially ones that claim to be healthy, can be a nutritional minefield. Nature's Bakery offers a range of products like fig bars, oatmeal crumble bars, and brownies that are often marketed as wholesome snack options. To understand whether Nature's Bakery can fit into a balanced diet, it's crucial to dissect the nutritional content and consider the context of an overall dietary pattern.

Key Nutrient Analysis

Nature's Bakery snacks are often recognized for containing natural ingredients and for being plant-based, Non-GMO Project Verified, and free from high-fructose corn syrup. A typical Nature's Bakery fig bar offers the following nutrients in a single serving (which usually contains two bars):

  • Calories: Around 200
  • Total Fat: 5 grams
  • Saturated Fat: Less than 1 gram
  • Trans Fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
  • Sodium: 80 milligrams
  • Total Carbohydrates: 39 grams
  • Dietary Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugars: 19 grams (some of which comes from fruit)
  • Protein: 2 grams

This profile points to a mixed bag in terms of the role these bars can play in a balanced diet. While the fiber content and use of real fruit in their fig bars can contribute to your daily fruit and fiber intake, the sugar content may be a concern for those managing blood sugar levels or looking to reduce added sugars in their diet.

Caloric Impact and Portion Control

With around 200 calories per pack, Nature's Bakery bars can fit as a snack in a standard diet that often ranges from 1,500 to 2,500 calories per day, depending on individual needs. The key to incorporating these snacks is to be mindful of portion sizes and the frequency of consumption. Because snack calories can add up quickly, they should not displace whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins that offer more nutritional density.

Satiety and Snacking Purpose

Although Nature's Bakery bars can provide an easy grab-and-go snack option, it's important to consider their impact on satiety. With only 2 grams of protein per serving, these bars may not be as filling as other snacks that are higher in protein and healthy fats, which can contribute to longer-lasting energy and fullness. Pairing a Nature’s Bakery bar with a source of protein, such as a handful of almonds or a serving of Greek yogurt, could balance the snack and promote satiety.

Comparisons to Similar Snack Options

When compared to other processed snack bars, Nature's Bakery products do stand out for their cleaner ingredient lists and absence of artificial preservatives and flavors. Yet, when it comes to sugar content, they can be similar to or sometimes exceed other common snack bars in the market. Thus, labeling them as 'healthier' may be misleading without considering the full nutritional content and context.

Nutritional Versatility

The versatility of Nature's Bakery bars is also worth noting. They can be a convenient option for those with specific dietary restrictions, as many of their products are vegan and kosher and offer gluten-free options. For individuals with busy lifestyles who prioritize plant-based and inclusive snack alternatives, these products could conveniently supplement their balanced diets.

Dietary Recommendations

Dietary experts often recommend that treats and processed snacks be consumed in moderation. It's suggested to primarily rely on whole foods for nutrients while using products like Nature's Bakery bars as occasional supplements or treats rather than dietary staples. Mindful snacking, by paying attention to hunger cues and nutritional needs, can help these products enhance a balanced diet without undermining health goals.

In conclusion, Nature's Bakery can be a part of a balanced diet when consumed thoughtfully. Understanding one's personal dietary needs and the role that such snacks play in overall nutrient intake is crucial for making informed choices.

Frequently asked questions

Individuals with diabetes should consume Nature's Bakery products with caution due to their sugar content. While the bars use natural sweeteners, they can still impact blood glucose levels. It is advisable to account for the carbohydrate content as part of the daily intake and monitor blood sugar responses. Consulting with a healthcare provider for personalized advice is recommended.

Nature's Bakery bars can be included in a weight management diet as part of a balanced approach to eating when consumed in moderation. Each pack of fig bars contains around 200 calories and when accounted for within your daily caloric intake, they won't necessarily lead to weight gain. However, keep in mind that these bars are relatively low in protein and fiber, which are important for satiety and may not be as filling as other snack options.

Nature's Bakery products do not list nuts as a primary ingredient, making them an option for individuals with nut allergies. However, if the manufacturing process involves products that contain nuts, there may be a risk of cross-contamination. It is crucial to check the packaging for allergen warnings and contact the manufacturer directly to ensure safety for those with severe nut allergies.

To incorporate Nature's Bakery bars into your diet without overconsuming sugars, consider them as an occasional treat rather than a daily snack. Look for versions with lower sugar content, limit portions to one bar per serving, and balance your overall diet with foods low in added sugars. Combining these bars with a source of protein or healthy fats can also help moderate blood sugar spikes.

Ask a question about Nature's Bakery and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • bloating
  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • blood sugar spikes
  • allergic reactions

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • risk from arsenic exposure
  • inflammation from omega-6

Ingredients to be aware of

  • whole wheat flour (gluten)
  • brown rice syrup (arsenic concerns)
  • cane sugar
  • canola oil (omega-6)
  • sea salt (sodium content)
  • natural flavors
  • soy lecithin
  • sorbic acid


  • source of whole grains
  • increased dietary fiber
  • natural ingredients
  • plant-based
  • no high-fructose corn syrup

Healthier alternatives

  • fiber-rich snacks
  • snacks with less added sugars
  • snacks with higher protein
  • whole food options like fruits and nuts

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-22-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-22-2024

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